File No. 763.72111/3360

The Ambassador in Italy (Page) to the Secretary of State

My dear Mr. Secretary: I sent you this morning a telegram1 which I now confirm, stating that the new Minister of War who was appointed on Saturday afternoon, Major General Vittorio Zupelli, is a native of Istria, and therefore comes from that region along the northeast shore of the Adriatic whose inhabitants are known as “Irredenti” on this side of the border.

His appointment is supposed to have solved the difficulties which have hitherto existed in the difference of views between the General Staff and the civil War Ministry, as he was a trusted lieutenant of General Cadorna, the Chief of Staff, who is regarded as one of the strongest, if not the strongest military man in Italy, whose views that the Minister of War should be an active soldier of experience in the field, in close touch with the General Staff, have thus prevailed. It is supposed by some that this appointment indicates that Italy intends to rush her military preparations, which are still far below what she desires.

However, for the present, at least, General Cadorna’s views, as reported, are in favor of holding to neutrality. Undoubtedly Italy does not feel that she is yet in a position to take any aggressive action against her former allies. She is making every effort to remedy her want of heavy field artillery as well as of other supplies.

An order for 600,000 blankets was given about two weeks ago for the Army, and her factories are working double shifts on clothing for the soldiers.

The Government insists that it will continue its policy of neutrality, and the business men seem strongly adverse to any step towards war.

I hear rumors that this neutral attitude has been much reinforced by the tremendous strength which Germany has shown, and gossip has reached me that some of the Germans and Austrians do riot scruple to say that if fortune should fail to favor them, they feel sure Italy will attack them.

My own impression is that the Government really wishes to maintain neutrality and will do so unless its hand is forced by some untoward event which would set the people of Italy aflame and destroy all chance of maintaining their neutral position.

The Marquis San Giuliano, Royal Minister for Foreign Affairs, has been ill for over a month now with a serious attack of gout, from which he has been a great sufferer for a long time; but has shown his power in maintaining his policy of neutrality unimpaired, notwithstanding his serious illness.

A report has reached me from a private source to-day that a serious crisis in his disease set in this morning and that he may not last out to-day. Should he die, the two men most talked of as his possible successors are the present Italian Ambassador in Paris, [Page 125] Signor Tittoni, and the present Royal Minister of the Colonies; Ferdinando Martini, though other names are also mentioned. Signor Martini is a Tuscan 78 years of age and therefore remembers personally the close of the Risorgimento.

The selection of either one of these two would indicate a preparation for Italy’s departing in time from her policy of neutrality; but where the situation appears to change at times almost from day to day, no one can forecast the future.

It is interesting to recall that in 1892, when Italy appointed a minister who, like Zupelli, was an Irredento, the Austrian Government through its Embassy, interposed an objection and the appointment was recalled.

Believe me [etc.]

Thomas Nelson Page
  1. Not printed.